Brooks Falls

I have seen the photos and heard the stories of Brooks Falls for years and yearned to go there myself. So, this year, after completing my safaris at Katmai I headed to Brooks Falls. We were about a week too early as the salmon had just begun running but were not at the falls jumping. However, that did not stop us from having a wonderful time and capturing some great images. The bears kept cycling through the falls area checking to see if the fish had arrived yet. This guy posed for quite awhile staring into the water waiting…

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The bears would walk right below the platform we were standing on giving us the opportunity to photograph details like the claws on this big guy…

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There was one bear they had named Snaggletooth because he had broken his jaw in a fight a couple of years ago. That could be fatal to most bears but, from the looks of old Snaggletooth, I don’t think he missed too many meals.

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We had a sow with two second year cubs hanging around the lodge. She seemed to know that it was safer around people than at the falls where the boars hung out.

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When she sensed another bear in the area she would send her cubs up a tree and guard them from below. Normally the rangers would keep folks away from the treed bears but, we had one ranger who got us back to our cabin where we could photograph the treed cubs from the required distance.

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All in all it was a successful trip to Brooks Falls and I have a reason to return to capture the classic fish jumping into a bears mouth.

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Images captured with Nikon D3, D3X, AF-S 70-300mm, AF-S 200-400mm, TC-14E on Lexar Digital Media

Disconnected…

It’s amazing how we have come to take for granted that we will be connected to the world via the internet. Two years ago we did not have access to the internet at the wilderness lodge I visit to photograph bears each year. This year I took it for granted until it went down. Suddenly, I had no access to the outside world…no phone, no internet, no way of communicating or blogging. What a strange feeling it was. From the lodge, I went to Brooks Falls (photos to come in the next post) where I knew I would not have internet. Ten days have passed and I finally have internet once again. And with it a flood of emails to attend to. I didn’t have an opportunity to do my final blog from the lodge so here is a recap of the last few days…

We revisited the oystercatchers to see how they were doing. They were all alive and growing quickly. From golf ball size a few days previously, they had more than doubled in size and their bills were beginning to take on the signature reddish color. Now they would go down to the water’s edge to forage for their own food rather than having mom and dad bring it to them. I wish I could document their progress all summer.

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We had another amazing opportunity with whales as they were breaching all around us. The challenge was to be looking in the right direction at the right time as they would dive and reappear in a totally different spot. A couple times they spouted right next to the boat. Moments like these are forever etched in my heart and brain with the photos to go along with them.

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We visited an eagles nest that required a climb up a steep hill where we could look over and catch a glimpse of the babies. They had just eaten a fish and their crops were so full they could hardly move around. Oblivious to our presence, we were able to photograph them for a short time.

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An adult eagle was perched in a tree nearby calling to it’s mate. The backdrop of mountains made for a stunning photo.

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Of course, we had many more experiences with the bears, observing their behavior and interaction with each other. I simply can’t get enough of these gentle giants.

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The two weeks in Katmai have passed too quickly. It is time to move on to the next leg of my Alaskan Adventure. I have grown to love this wild and wonderful place and look forward to next year. Many who have joined me have fallen in love with the bears of Katmai as well and I look forward to new adventures with you in addition to sharing this magical place with new folks. For more information on joining me next year visit my website for availability. This final parting photograph as we headed down the bay to the lodge is three frames of a five frame bracket handheld from the moving boat and processed using Photomatic Pro 3.0 to create an HDR image.

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As Good As It Gets

I have to say that today was in the top ten of amazing days. The day began with breaching whales within site of the lodge so we took a detour to photograph them. Talk about a humbling experience to see a creature as large as a Humpback Whale coming out of the water. What power.

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After the excitement died down and the whales were simply spouting we headed towards our original destination in the bay. We saw four bears as we arrived so we gathered our gear together and jumped off the boat. Our first experience with the bears was a pair sparring in close range. I have been hoping for a moment like this the last ten days.

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The action was curtailed when the biggest, baddest bear on the flats arrived and sat down as if to say, this is my place.

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During breaks in the bear action we turned our lenses to an eagles nest right above us. I liked the high key look with the clouds in the background.

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The bears are so funny. One moment they are eating voraciously and the next they lay down and appear to fall fast asleep.

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This area is to tidal dependent on where you can go and when so once the tides had lowered enough to pass around a couple of coves we packed up our gear and went on a boat ride to see what we could find. Our first stop was at a rock where numerous Harbor Seals had hauled out of the water. I loved this tender moment between a baby and it’s mother.

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Our final stop was at the Kittiwake rock. It was incredible to see the progress in the nest building and had begun to mate. I loved the mottled blue sky with clouds as a backdrop and concentrated on capturing a vertical as the Kittiwakes flew by.

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I have to say that this has been a most amazing experience and by far the best in all my years of coming. I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow will bring.
Images captured with Nikon D3X, D3, AF-S 600mm, AF-S 70-300mm VR on a lexar Digital CF cards

Here A Bear, There A Bear…

We have been very fortunate with bears this spring. There has not been a day that we have not found opportunities to photograph bears. We even have bears at the lodge.
This sub-adult was within 40-50 feet of the lodge when we photographed him. He paused in his grazing to take a look at us.

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And, then he stood…

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Back at the flats later in the morning it was cool to watch the behavior of this bear as he caught a whiff of a bear behind us.

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While it looks like he is coming right at us, he is really focused on the other bear behind us.

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Images captured with Nikon D3X, AF-S 70-300mm (first two images), D3, AF-S 600mm, TC-14E on Lexar Digital Media.